Down With the Bullies!

Bullying is an act of intentionally inflicting injury or discomfort upon another person (through physical contact, through words or in other ways) repeatedly and over time for the purpose of intimidation and/or control. It leads its victims to low self-esteem, an inability to set boundaries, and a long trail of social problems such as cutting, suicide, addictions, sex and illegal drugs. We’ve all heard horror stories of Facebook postings that have led to suicide. We all know someone in our childhood who was bullied.

But what of the other side to bullying? Who does it? What are they like? What problems occurred in their backgrounds to cause them to want to do it? Many scenarios contribute to what creates a bully.  Sometimes it’s inherited; dad was a bully or mom was a bully.  Growing up in a household like that would make it difficult to sort out the impact it has on you. On one hand it appeared to give your parents power. We all want power, especially where we are young and can’t quite figure out which way to turn, right from wrong. If you grew up in a family that had no spiritual values finding a healthy path would have been a challenge. We mimic what our parents do. Bullying has false rewards. It makes us feel we’re in charge of our destiny. If our household was dysfunctional we have no clue what is healthy behavior and what isn’t. How could we? It’s only after we grow up and begin stumbling in our own lives that we see the mantle we inherited and that it wasn’t contributing to our well-being. If we’re fortunate we find our way out of the darkness, get in to a program, find strong spiritual guidance, or perhaps find a partner who grew up in a healthy household. AA talks about reaching your bottom. Sometimes our bottom is death.

The father of my children grew up in an Irish Catholic family. Going to church and learning spiritual values was a given. But there was a dark side to the family not easily discerned. The patriarch of the family was an alcoholic who bullied his wife. The wife was a perfect enabler. She rushed around waiting on her husband hand and foot. When he hollered, “Bring me, me beer,” from the living room, she hurried in and gave him a beer. The boys in that family grew up thinking that a wife was supposed to wait on them hand and foot. My husband was a twin. In marrying me he found the duplicate of his mother.  I didn’t know any better as that’s what my mother did. The gal who married his twin wasn’t so forthcoming.  I remember as a newlywed being frustrated because my husband would be drinking a beer with the neighbor when I would come over and tell him dinner would be ready in a few minutes. He nodded and I returned home. I returned when dinner was ready and told him. He ignored me. I went back home. Several times I went over to the neighbors to try to get my husband home to dinner. He kept on drinking. Eventually I ate a cold dinner alone and went to bed in tears.

My sister-in-law had a different way of handling things. Her mate would be drinking beer with a neighbor and she would go over to tell him dinner would be ready in 15 minutes. 30 minutes passed and he kept on drinking with a neighbor. Soon his wife came out a plate in her hand and dumped it over the top of his head. He never did it again.

I listened to her story with amazement. I would have never had the nerve to do that. I also had a vague idea that she was in the wrong. It took me many years to realize I was the one who didn’t handle things in a way to get results.  Needless to say our marriage deteriorated and my sister and brother in law stayed married till death did they part. That story stayed with me as an example of ‘there is always another way, not always the best’.

How we behave with others as adults is directly linked to how we were raised, the kind of environment we were raised in and the decisions we made to go along with unhealthy behavior. My second husband kept a book on his desk in his office. It was called Winning Through Intimidation. He was the ultimate bully and keeping that book on his desk where clients and customers and even friends could see who was in charge was a good reminder. Intimidation means ‘To make timid or fearful’. Why would anyone even write a book about that? In the end I refused to comply with a request that would have been unfair to me. His response? He wanted a divorce. After all, he always got rid of wives and dogs who refused to be obedient.

It all comes down to the Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated.

In other words, ‘Down with the bullies.”

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